Tuesday, August 9, 2011


Curated by Willie Binnie & Tamara Coleman
Bows & Arrows May 2011  Dallas, TX

  The Artist 'played dead" for the duration of the 4 hr exhibition opening, laying perfectly still in a felted wool shroud on a bed of rock salt.

Botany of Desire

Curated by Greg Metz  University of Texas at Dallas Main Gallery  March 25-April 23, 2011  Dallas, TX

Drawing inspiration from the reciprocal, co-evolving nature of plants and artists, this group exhibition features installations, paintings, drawings, plantings and mixed media by Claudia Borgna, Kimberly Alexander, Ric Heitzman, Rebecca Beachy, Tracy Hicks, Jeffrey Miranda, Vernon Fimple, Lizzy Wetzel, Julia McLain, Albert Scherbarth, and  Clayton Browning.

"Lizzy Wetzel is a vision Gardener, constructing a dream world gazebo and alter to the plant teachers.  This 'exists in a place deep within the belly of the dream where one meets with guides and gathers information from the ancestors'
all are welcome, all are one
A stranger left a love offering.  Thank you stranger.

Cochineal bugs populate the Nopales 

Maidenhair fern, wool, raw silk, graphite
Elk Power

An altar to the plant teachers


Glass Houses 22: Lizzy Wetzel


an exhibition of site specific installations opening September 11, 2010, at 337 Singleton Blvd., Dallas TX 75212. Organized by Stephen Lapthisophon and Anne Lawrence

Sand, pigment, abandoned interior office window

Trash Totems

Solo exhibition at Bows & Arrows  March 2010  Dallas, TX

We are the Earth; sacred and profane. We are material and the things we make are made of the same elements that make us. The constellation of forces that shape who we are also falls upon our creations, determining what form they take, what purpose they serve, who will love them, and who will throw them away. Will they live long or be consumed by loneliness?

In Trash Totems, the sacred becomes not a quality put on an object, nor a spell put on a person, but a special bond that exists between the two. This magick imbues an object with the divine, allowing it to channel the immaterial relationships that bind us to one another. These relationships become the things that Lizzy Wetzel is harnessing.

Wetzel’s practice is one of seeking out these sacred relationships and collecting the objects they are contained within. She speaks the language of the silent, showing us that these things will talk to those who listen. An orange peel, Joe Frank’s hair, a bone fragment - they all become her primary materials. 

In these 13 sculptures, she combines these materials through an intricate alchemy to build new relationships from her old ones. Each element added creates a new facet.  What was a love for only two becomes a triangle, then a hexagon, an octagon, and eventually, by including us all, becomes a circle. They are totems; monuments celebrating the life we have had together.

Gravity pulls the Earth's weight into itself, compressing all of its material into stone and flesh. Like the pressure upon an igneous rock, these forces push on us along with our refuse. We are of this earth! As we bury ourselves amongst our things, we rejoice in marvel, consumed by the world and transformed by its gravity.

-James Case Leal
The Messiah


Natural Beauty

Delicate Arrangement
Slow Time


Personal Fettish
Bows and Arrows, Dallas
March 27–April 20, 2010
Texas native Lizzy Wetzelʼs work is usually easily
recognized: bones, bees wax, glow-in-the-dark colors,
neon slick paint, intricate altars and carefully
choreographed rituals. Usually, the work has a function:
to cleanse, to protect, to explain, to proselytize.
In previous shows at Road Agent and Women and
Their Work, she created environments for performance,
whether public or not, in which the art served
as the prop for the action.
In her newest exhibition at Bows and Arrows, Wetzel
opts for private ritual over public ceremony. She
described this work as being more “honest, pathetic,
and true to life,” personifying the objects as “little
monsters.” This body of work started with two small
fragile table-top size sculptures from 2007, “The
Messiah” and “Mother of Pearl,” shown in Miami at
Aqua Hotel Art Fair. By spring 2008 Wetzel had
moved to New York City and found herself with the
luxury of having a studio, but none of the specialized
supplies that she had carefully procured at her
Shamrock Building studio in Dallas. So, she turned
to the most abundant resource at hand-–the trash of
New York. The first of the NY totems was a small
shrine to nature with a cut out picture of a Christmas
tree mounted on cardboard and a desiccated
orange peel set on a hunk of concrete, “Natural
This work is puzzling, vulnerable, and sincere.
Some of it is surprisingly stark, like “Shell/Shelter/
Shhh,” a piece of cardboard bent in an upsidedown
V attached to the wall aligned with a white
painted diamond shape. It is installed to fit just over
her head, as a personal shelter. My favorite is “Personal
Fetish,” a stick balanced horizontally on two
large gold-colored nails with a heavy cotton cord
tied in the center trailing downwards, then caught
up in intricate neon pink thread towards the bottom.
It is striking from a distance, simple, and eventually
complicated. There is something very satisfying and
intuitive about these two pieces. They feel like they
are part of a conversation the artist is having with
herself about her own practice of making objects.
Donʼt fear, Wetzel hasnʼt abandoned her trademark
neon slick paint; there is plenty of it in the show, and
feathers and bones. Bows and Arrows is an art
gallery/floral/craft shop at the intersection of multiple
creativities that value the skill of the hand and the
eye. Included in the show, installed with other shop
merchandise and props, are a line of accessories
by Wetzel under the label Snake Oil, including
leather talismans and bib necklaces along with
other eccentricities. Wetzel is choosing to blur the
lines between craft, commerce, and art with both
her choice of venue and her own production.

More Than This

Curated by Anne Lawrence  CADD Art Lab  2009  Dallas, TX

“More Than This” is the second exhibition presented at CADD Art Lab, a new venue for talking about and
presenting contemporary art in downtown Dallas. The exhibition will feature paintings, sculpture,
drawings, and installations by artists including Anderson and Low, Scott Anderson, Frances Bagley, Scott
Barber, Kevin Bewersdorf, Paul Booker, Candace Briceno, Trenton Doyle Hancock, Tracy Hicks, Terrell
James, Tom Orr, Jennifer Rose, Carl Suddath, Takako Tanabe, Jackie Tileston, Erik Tosten, and Lizzy

 The impulse to create independent systems is well demonstrated. Like Tom Orr, Frances Bagley borrows
objects from everyday life, but imbues them with a sense of mystery and fantasy. We understand we are
walking into her world. Lizzy Wetzel’s preference for bones, wax, and natural pigment powder contradict
the neon colors and bold graphic look of her shamanistic installations. Likewise, the mythbuilding of
Trenton Doyle Hancock and fragments of alternate worlds revealed in the large paintings of Scott
Anderson and Jackie Tileston bring the viewer into private universes with established rules and
The title “More Than This” refers both to the potential of objects to create meaning--whether calling into
question the world around you or divulging an internal fantasy--and to the futility of it, as the Roxy Music
song claims, “more than this/there is nothing.”
"-More Than This at CADD Art Lab was my absolute favorite gallery
show. Scott Anderson ‘s large paintings look like 1950′s sci-fi pulp novel covers at some points, and some weird deconstructed architecture or interdimensional rift in others while Jackie Tileston imposes brightly colorful line patterns onto more somber scenes that are somewhat reminiscent of JMW Turner . Kevin
‘s GIF Mandala is spellbinding and technically impressive,
and Lizzy Wetzel‘s installation is magical (and smells like burnt
hair)." Ivan Lozano, Glasstire, 2008

The Medicine Show

Women & Their work Gallery  June 2009   Austin, TX 
In the beginning, void. Total absence. Out of this nothing came One. No why or how. Bang. There it is. Logos. One thought. A word.

Out of One came Two. From Two came Three, and from the Three, Infinite Cosmos. More galaxies in our universe than stars in our galaxy, more universes beyond this one than galaxies in it.

What was the phrase that shaped itself from this nothing (no creator needed, separate from the creation)? The one Word that begat the symphonic infinite holographic encyclopedia of being, all of it reducible to that first utterance; which is still just now, and always?

Why, “Love,” of course.

Well, apologies to you hard-nosed art worlders, but we can’t talk about the artwork of Lizzy Wetzel and not confront the obvious. You can’t not use the word “psychedelic.” You can’t not get a little cosmic for minute. You have to use the “L-word.” After all, she does.

In the ritual that initiated her exhibition at WOTW, individuals were selected from the crowd by a male “gatekeeper” dressed in nothing more than a hawk-wing codpiece, ornately embellished plastic Halloween wolf mask, and white body paint. They were ushered by two more masked, dark-costumed functionaries into a black-light illumined bamboo dome. There Wetzel, in hooded white druid’s dress, her stated intention to “massage” each person with amplified drum beats and chanting, whispered a healing mantra: “I love you.” Each participant was given an initiatory mark as they exited, an orange stripe painted down their forehead and nose.

Love chants, glitter hot glue, fluorescent shiny puff paint, black lights, animal parts: this work is nothing less than a challenge to every last vestige of high-art respectability, and really, the new academy.

By the 1990’s, after the thorough decades-long “deconstruction” of any authoritative aesthetic or material criteria, art-world clout had finally come to more or less be measured by a perceived level of analytical critique; a predominance of a sort of masculine, reductivist, passive-aggressive, hyper-intellectual gameswo/manship and tactical maneuvering, symptomized by a lack of any sort of emotional/physical expansiveness, in favor of endless small tight turns in the brain. Feeling was allowed, as long as it was moderated by a wink/nudge irony, political agitation, or was observably negative (ennui, angst, self-loathing, disgust preferred, thank you.) Sincerity was really only to be believed if what was expressed was unpleasant.

The last few years have seen an overwhelming push-back against this sort of discrimination, toward glee, joy, casualness, collaboration, hilarity, friendship, care, entheogens, make-up, and generally having a good time in the art experience.

Wetzel is a member of a creative generation emerging naturally in this moment, reacting spontaneously with their cultural products and intrusions – I would argue she happens to do it better that most. The world clearly needs a new approach. Things are a mess. We are out of balance. We need some healing. A Medicine Show, even.

Art as medicine; of course. What else should it be?

What needs healing? God, what doesn’t?

At root, we greatly suffer the loss of functional myth and meaning structures. Disconnection from Earth (physical and metaphysical,) each other. War, within the self, and by extension, everything else.

We are sick, unto the possible death of our species. To the death of many others, that is already certain. 

We don’t have the luxury to be purely negative anymore, to wallow in the impulse to critique and intellectually unravel the mechanisms of our immanent demise. We need healing. We need vision.

Art can act as medicine. Illness, of all sorts, is about separation; even just from the notion of health itself. We lose felt connection to the trunk of the sources of being, and find ourselves driven out into strangled branches and twigs. Lost in the weeds.
 Indigenous people everywhere lived and developed slow, sustainable cultures over dozens of millennia, building myth-ritual-social structures in harmony with human and natural patterns, staying connected to the roots, not losing site of the obvious. They ate, grateful, sustained by the gifts of the flowering world, and in turn they were eaten, by the earth, by its gods.

Very few of us still live consciously connected in this way today, and we exist embedded in conditions that make it seemingly almost impossible to do, like soul-caught bugs in media amber.

Indigenous societies had certain technicians whose function it was to specialize in this sort of harmonizing: of the human with human, and of the human with the seen and unseen realms beyond the boundaries of flesh and conscious psyche. We now generally use the Turko-Mongolian term “shaman” to label these doctors of the sacred.

If religions, as most now generally understand them, arose with the development of settled agricultural civilizations 5000 years ago, these free-agent visionary technicians, men and women, have been acting in much the same manner for closer to perhaps 100,000 years. This is not a heritage that we simply shrug off, or technologically “evolve” beyond. We are actually much less “advanced” than we think, functioning with essentially the same physio/psychological equipment as our great-to-the-1000th grandmother.

Many “civilized” human societies are deeply alienated from their original holistic human cultural systems. The “why” of it is (perhaps) a long discussion. But clear is that in the development of what has come to be considered contemporary art praxis, numbers of its significant recent practitioners have embraced the shamanic function quite consciously, engaged in what some consider an archaic revival, a revolution on par with the European Renaissance. Joseph Beuys would of course be foremost among these artists.

He is one of Wetzel’s art lineage ancestors. But like a reactionary shamanic art granddaughter, she’s painted his tools fluorescent pink and covered them with glitter and butterfly wings. Instead of aesthetically reclaiming the dark rusted iron and fat/felt of a resurrected Luftwaffe martyr, she re-posits her summer day-camp kids’ Hobby Lobby materials, and her DJ friend’s post-rave-culture club gear.

Wetzel is from the Southwestern US. She feels it too. She likes the desert; cacti and bones. Her material language emerges out of the dusty red soil and Hill Country caliche, and while she’s temporarily taken her alchemical laboratory to NYC, she doesn’t leave the region for long at a time. Certainly never in spirit.

The curtained, black-lit, sacred shrouded dome zone in the exhibition is balanced by a desert evocation outside it, symbolized by bright lights and a triangular installation of San Pedro cacti. The San Pedro is a source of many traditional medicines used for thousands of years in Americas north and south, famously including psychoactive mescaline alkaloids. Shamans know that plants have communicating spirits, and power beyond their mere chemical components -- no different than you or I. She’s adorned these cacti with gold glitter and artificial painted blooms, and planted in hand-built clay chalices.

Circles symbolically relate to water, and triangles to fire. Balancing oppositions, male and female. On the walls are enshrined the ritual masks and garb worn at the opening. I pointed out to the artist that she’d intuitively arranged them as cross-adorned (4) pentagrams (5) inside triangles of light (3). There is sacred geometry at work. Each whole number by nature has associated energies and archetypal references. I’ll leave interpretation at that. Find in them what you will. I hope viewers will be drawn to spend time with the installation, and feel their way toward the messages Wetzel embeds and embodies in it, having happily struggled to midwife it into the world, in laughter, in tears. It was hard work, physical and spiritual.

The final element is a trinity of horse-hides stretched on the walls, with mirrored rainbow star-bursts tied across their surfaces. As I spent time gazing at them they began to resemble gateways opening into deep space, like images shot from the Hubble space telescope of black holes and nebulae. I like that rather than try to pretend to depict something cosmic using high-tech or illusionary means, a horse hide, a few strands of plastic craft cord, some octagonal feng shui mirrors , some goopy paints, and the context do the trick, perhaps more evocatively.

The whole thing is actually surprisingly discreet. Too often lately this kind of approach can feel like a big adolescent neon dump pile; trying too hard with the more-is-more, lamely forcing the glam tacky anti-art factor. Wetzel takes some lessons from the desert, from the indigenous, and maybe Don Judd and Dan Flavin. There’s a surprising kind of sophistication, tastefulness believe it or not, that you can’t really pretend. I call it ‘visual intelligence.’

The important thing is to know that it’s possible to generate these kinds of crazy/sane visions, intrusions, happenings, detournement, these kind of ancient/futuristic lineages and communities today. Wetzel’s effort is a challenge to you to create a medicine show in your own world.

And by the way: she loves you.

June 10, 2009

Titus O’Brien is an artist and writer currently based in Chicago.